Hyundai Considering Midsize Pickup for U.S. Market
Chances Depend on Chicken-Tax Phase-Out, Production Site
We weren't sure what to think of this piece initially from Automotive News, which first ran on April 1. But considering the reputation and legitimacy of the source, we figured it was solid. The fact that there hasn't been a change or retraction to it shows it to be a relatively reliable account. What makes it newsworthy is that it could potentially represent an entry from one of the world's largest automakers into a segment it has not previously had a model in the U.S. Hyundai is reportedly considering a midsize pickup for the U.S. market.
There are several critical factors at play that could determine the viability of the vehicle for the U.S. market. The first is the full implementation of a recently passed free-trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea, which would result in a phase-out of the so-called "chicken tax," a 25-percent tariff levied on foreign-built pickups. All foreign-brand pickups currently sold in the U.S. are built in North America. Full phase-out of the tariff would take place by 2021; only South Korea would be exempt from the tariff.
Hyundai's current North American production capacity is maxed out on strong demand for the Elantra and Sonata sedans, as well as for the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport SUVs. Hyundai could build a new production facility or expand an existing site in North America for the new model, potentially allowing it to circumvent the tariff, but has publicly stated that its primary focus right now is improving its product quality, rather than chasing volume.
The specific size and configuration of the truck is still up in the air. Honda's groundbreaking unibody Ridgeline pickup was considered revolutionary by many in the industry, but has failed to become a major player in terms of sales volume against the dominant Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier. All of the domestic automakers except for General Motors have abandoned the midsize segment in the U.S., in favor of concentrating efforts on their full-size truck lines.
Source: Automotive News (subscription required)